The criticisms leveled by Non-Muslims against the Quranic miracle of embryology. This is indeed a miracle of Quran
Written by Asim Nazir
Student of Master in Islamic Studies
Islamic University Qatar
Quran has explained some extra ordinary phenomenas which can be presented as a proof of its divine reality. In this essay I will explore the embryology knowledge mentioned in the Quran which was unknown 1400 years ago in any civilization and I will refute the arguments of Non-Muslims by proving that Quran was not the human effort but a book of truth revealed from God to His messenger Muhammad (pbuh). The following are the common arguments are made by Non-Muslims against the embryology knowledge of the Quran.
- Prophet (pbuh) plagiarized ancient Greek embryology
- Prophet (pbuh) learnt Hellenic medicine from someone who studied Greek medicine
- Prophet (pbuh) dissected human and animal embryos
I will discuss each point briefly.
- It is claimed that Prophet (pbuh) plagiarised the work of the ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle, and the 2nd century physician and philosopher Galen and Hellenic embryology was common knowledge of that era. Firstly I will analyze if Hellenic and Quranic views on embryology are similar? Quran says: “We created man from an essence of clay, then We placed him as a drop of fluid (Nutfah) in a safe place. Then We made that drop of fluid into a clinging form (Alaqah) and then We made that form into a lump of flesh (Mudghah) and We made that lump into bones, and We clothed those bones with flesh and later We made him into other forms. Glory be to God the best of creators.”
Quran & Aristotle: To say that Prophet (pbuh) derived embryology knowledge from Aristotle would be unreasonable because Aristotle believed only male produces fluid responsible for the development of the embryo and it is the active form while female ovum as providing only the passive element for fertilization. He was also in the view that semen mixed with women’s menstrual blood, coagulating to form the embryo. This view goes against modern science & Quran, as Quran describes the Nutfa as a mingled substance from both male and the female, not just the male. Also Nutfa does not represent women menstrual blood in Arabic, the word for menstrual blood in Arabic is Hayd. Furthermore, Quran did not mention the other few concepts of Aristotle, for instance, Aristotle believed that male embryos are generated on the left side of the womb and female embryos on right side of the womb, also Aristotle held the belief that the upper body is formed before the lower body.
Quran & Galen: According to Galen the first stage of human development is in the form of semen which he observed by dissections and abortions , whereas Quranic word Nutfa represents the first stage of human embryo does not mean semen. Galen also asserts that semen from both the male and female mix with menstrual blood and mother contribution semen as well as menstrual blood to form the fetus . Quran does not mention aforesaid ideas at all, it explicitly states that the Nutfa & Alaqah stages are distinct and separate. Therefore to say Quran and Galenic embryology is similar will be lack of understanding.
It will worth mentioning that Prophet (pbuh) could not have acquired knowledge of Hellenic embryology via written works because major translations of those books into Arabic began at least 150 years after the death of Prophet (pbuh) . However non-Arabic texts such as the Syriac and Latin translation of Galen’s books were available in 6th century, but Prophet (pbuh) did not know Syriac or Latin. Also Prophet (pbuh) could not have been taught Hellenic embryology via someone who had learned via these translations, as there is no historical proves to support this claim.
- Other claim is that Prophet (pbuh) learnt medical knowledge from someone who studied Greek medicine. According to history and various biographies of the Prophet (pbuh), there could be only one person who may have studied Greek medicine and came into direct contact with the Prophet (pbuh) was the physician al-Harith bin Kalada. According to some historians he received his medical education from Jundishapur Persian medical school, however the existence of such a school has already been questioned by a number of leading historians for instance David C.Linderberg , Roy Porter , Manfred Ullman , Franz Rosenthal & Plinio Prioreschi who even stated that there appears to be no evidence of a major medical school in either the 6th or 7th century and there are no Persian sources that substantiate the claim that Jundisapur played a significant role in the history of medicine . Under the consideration of aforementioned historical proves Kalada’s profession as a “Doctor” has already become question mark.
According to many historians bin Kalada also embraced Islam when Muslims conquered the Taif (his home town) in the 8th year of the Islamic calendar (630 CE) and also narrated information about Prophet (pbuh). It would be hard to believe that educated physician converted to Islam and followed the Prophet (pbuh) and never mentioned that Prophet (pbuh) copied his knowledge by naming it divine revelation. Also most importantly bin Kalada came into contact with Prophet (pbuh) in the 8th year of Islamic calendar (630 CE) but Quranic chapter 23 (referring about embryology) had already been revealed in the late period of Makkah (609-622 CE) .
- It is also claimed that Prophet (pbuh) dissected or inspected the human and animal embryos, which explains his medical knowledge. This claim is itself baseless because to observe the embryos described by Quran would require optical assistant, for instance the stages of Nutfa & Alaqah and also there is no historical record of Prophet (pbuh) dissecting animal or human embryos.
On the basis of aforementioned arguments, it can be said that neither Prophet (pbuh) had any medical knowledge nor he learnt it from anyone. Quran described the stages of embryology accurately 1400 years ago which were discovered by science in 20th century which is the miracle of the Quran.
Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, Embryology in the Quran, A scientific-Linguistic Analysis of Quranic Chapter 23, Version 2.1b/April 2012, p. 53
Galen, On Semen, English translation by Philip de Lacy, Akademic Verlag, 1992, p. 92-95, 101 (Google Book References)
Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, Embryology in the Quran, A scientific-Linguistic Analysis of Quranic Chapter 23, Version 2.1b/April 2012, p. 46
In his book The Beginnings of Western Scienc, University of Chicago Press. 1992, p. 164-165
In this book The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity, Fontana Press, 1999, p. 94
In Die Medizinimn Islam, Leiden ad Cologne. 1970, p. 19-20
In Apud his translation of Ibne Khaldun’s Muqaddima, II, p. 373
Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, Embryology in the Quran, A scientific-Linguistic Analysis of Quranic Chapter 23, Version 2.1b/April 2012, p. 42-44